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Webequie eyes Ring of Fire opportunities

December 1, 2009
by Norm Tollinsky
In: News with 0 Comments

Webequie First Nation, a remote fly-in community 540 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, is determined to take advantage of the employment and business opportunities in the Ring of Fire, a highly prospective greenstone belt destined to be Ontario’s newest mining camp.

Community leaders have concluded two joint venture deals and are negotiating an exploration agreement with Noront Resources. One joint venture is with Cyr Drilling, a Winnipeg-based diamond drilling company. The other is with Webequie Logistics, a spinoff of West Cariboo Air Services Inc.

“Webequie invited us to come and base an air service in their community, so we started operating as an air service and helicopter company,” said Webequie Logistics president Clayton Downton. “Then we saw a need for logistics services, so with the blessings of the chief and council, we signed an agreement in April 2009.”

The company provides line cutting and staking services, exploration equipment rental, camp construction, personnel management, catering and fuel supply to a number of exploration companies operating in the Ring of Fire.

The business has created employment opportunities for the people of Webequie and income for the community through revenue and profit sharing.

West Cariboo has been operating in First Nation communities across northwestern Ontario for 12 years and has an excellent relationship with the people of Webequie and other communities, said Downton.

Trust is the biggest issue. When you respect them, they appreciate that and reciprocate that trust and respect. We have a very open relationship with them and have worked very hard to bring benefits to the community. They see our efforts to help them.

Webequie Logistics can also serve as a middleman, or fixer.
“Mining companies often don’t have a clue about how to work with First Nations, but when they hire us, we’re aware of all those issues,” said Downton.

“One of the companies we’re working with did have issues with the community, but we were able to resolve them very quickly and give them guidance on what they should do.”

The joint venture with Cyr Drilling provides Webequie First Nation with a 20 per cent interest in the company and the right to purchase full ownership in 2013. The company currently has four diamond drill rigs turning in the Ring of Fire and is training community members as drilling assistants, said Webequie First Nation Chief Cornelius Wabasse.

Community leaders have also met with Noront Resources and are working toward an exploration agreement with the company, which they hoped to conclude before the end of the year.

“They came to our community to do a presentation about their company and it went pretty well,” said Wabasse. “We’re optimistic that it will progress toward a really good relationship.”

Webequie is also one of several First Nation communities that have had talks with representatives of Sinocan Resources Corp., one of several Chinese-owned exploration companies operating under the umbrella of the China Mining Association of Canada. Sinocan has staked a large number of claims in the Ring of Fire and met with Webequie and other First Nations last summer prior to conducting exploration activities.

The community has a population of approximately 800 and is located 70 kilometres from the Ring of Fire. It has trained prospectors and “people who are willing to work and willing to learn,” said Wabasse.

A mine in the Ring of Fire would have a major impact on the community.

“It’s an opportunity that we didn’t have until now,” he said. “It gives hope to our young people to go to school and look forward to coming back to a good job.”

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